My mother loved to watch, Gone With The Wind. It was her favorite movie. I can’t say that I ever understood what it meant to her. That was my failing as the perennial ‘late bloomer’. When I have seen it as of late it seems so blatantly obvious now. The frivolous nature of a young desirable girl. A seen of love based upon a foolish seen of infatuation. The fear of being left vulnerable and alone. The building of an inner resolve as a maturing woman to steel herself against any challenge. The opportunity that life provides her to prove her abilities and worth again all odds. Making her own way int he world despite the criticism of society. Discovering the true nature of love and friendship even if it seems too late in the game. And the value of home and the legacy of family that one has come from. All these qualities having their effect upon a young girl looking forward to the transition into womanhood.
She was nineteen when it appeared in theaters in 1940. I have to wonder if she viewed it first in the last preeminent movie palace still extent in the midst of the loop in Chicago? What disappointments and discoveries that lay ahead of her one might wonder if she expected? A world where war stole the possibility of finding a lasting love. The rise of career seeming to interject itself betwixt the chance for finding a home and raising a family. A brief and incidental marriage to a selfish boy that pretended to be a man leading to the disappointment and despair of never achieving the goal of harmony in motherhood. The tragic death of her mother and the subsequent loss of her father due to his grief and despair. And of course my father who in so many ways was a fit stand in for the real man in O’Selznick’s passion play. That special someone who had all the faults but at the core of it loved her and held her as the center of his universe. The most significant big budget extravaganza of her coming of age predicting in so many ways what became the challenges that she faced in the subsequent progress of her later life. How she must have viewed herself against the foil of the drama’s lead character at those many decisive junctures of her existence?
To view the film now is to catch sight of her at that tender age in the flickering darkness of the audience. A sight one rarely finds as a child of a woman that to them seemed the eternal archaic goddess known as ‘mother’. “January 17th, 1940.” To think of the date that she may have stepped into the lobby of some baroque movie palace fresh with anticipation to encounter the fresh celluloid telling her the tale of her future and destiny. How clever in hindsight for the doyens of Hollywood to fashion their plans to come within such clever intrigue. To show how a well-planned world conflict would affect the aspirations of the then contemporary iteration society coming of age and hint at how it would soon be transfigured. And in considering the subsequent ‘strum und drang‘ of this current time deposed. The players in the drama provided with both highs and lows and revealed as heroes or villains by their building legacy of reactions. The controversial aspect of the social incarceration of one and the effect of their inescapable lot in life ever-present as both tool and warning.
I have to wonder at the double edge sword the genius and the diabolical nature of those that power society so frivolously without the art form of painting the prospective progression of human life upon a screen? And then hangs it over the heads of the viewer by a thread for the rest of their existence. The audience aligning their lives to a mass hysterical narrative as opposed to finding their own way unassisted through the tangle wood of everyday chaos? Sitting here alone within the fading limelight of my own passing existence being the sole keeper of the long but now extinct narrative of my own kin I can only wonder further what the true natures of my own local players were? Their true identities reflected by the unspoken hopes and dreams that never were revealed . And somehow remained elusive never to come to pass! And how I might somehow in some small way further get to know them as they really once were.
A ‘menschen‘ of excess and obsession. Pathologically so! All to show for their failings being the oversupply of material objects each of an outmoded sense of value to the atrophy of society that forever surrounds them. The chase for golden apples seemingly eternal for the brass of the moment when a synthesis with that diaphanous proposition success translates into a temporal reality of being found ahead of all the others. The most dangerous of notions!
It may have been that along the way on the path one forged that sight of what was so long familiar and easily to mind in the past was lost. One’s own name forgotten? That tall grass that ever lay unkempt. Tamed only after the largess of the passing seasons converted into dead stalks blown over by old winds to fall desiccated and seemingly spent before another season’s reciprocation. The dipole of mixed emotions equally susceptible to being drawn to and forth and then repelled What after all did one have to lose but one’s self? The infrequency of familiar relations a rarity with others casting one immediately as the stranger. Novel for a time, but never at home. Only those far distant times that were spent under the rule of those barely recalled others who brought one into the world. Judged a fit bow to have claimed have loosed so errant an arrow. Enforced anonymity equally a matter of patent non-specificity being as much a matter of reckless adherence to the daily rule of iron routines. Like a liquid, bleaching a visible spot as stain goes on expanding beyond its boundaries attempting to seek the most expeditiously covert means of escape. High pressure to low pressure. So much that quantity of landscape to have been dragged across so roughly.So many rocks that have bruised the thighs! And all of the damage too problematic to attempt to reasonably recall! Can one have the presence of mind to be able to precisely recall the disapproval upon their own mother’s or father’s face? The keepers of the circus cannon that one once used to recklessly shoot one’s self from. To bump and land roughly into more distant climes to be locked and imprisoned in solitude. Now the facsimile of the idea that propelled one forth lost somewhere nondescript within abandoned fairgrounds. A concept suddenly found to have been long ago disproved but never heeded. Those fatal and inescapable words, “I am alone.”
The sonorous quality of all things familiar drives one to summon the creation that approximates what once . To find that same nest of broken eggshells that was once known as home? How close to that vine that one seems to cling to when the fear of an inevitable end is approaching? Trying to summon some form of reliable surety, as if one surely knows something unique and eternal as opposed to simply repeating the same answers as one is always told. The path leads only in one direction. There is no possibility of return. The great tragedy of finding a fool’s cap resting upon one’s own head as they are informed it has always so securely rested. “What could you have ever expected to carry with you to the grave?” So many would have wanted one to tell a a safe and comforting familiar story! To recount a place of wonder safe from want or annoying irritations.To take them somewhere that may be familiar enough to never challenge but delightfully explore two steps only past the periphery. Not lost in the bush. “Is that right?” How do robins manage to mind their young yet expect them to fly off one day on their own? All we have in this larger fishbowl is ourselves and the long accumulation of what becomes our own follies to confront. Every automobile eventually runs out of gas or breaks down. Unless some measure of replenishment is found. But what if it can no longer be found? A long line of camels waiting for safe passage through a needle’s eye. Too far somewhere undefined in the desert of one’s self? Past times seems to quickly fade into rust. Banished by one’s children who will start their lives independently of any judgment of my own when fully grown. Individuals and adults when you are long dead. A passing generation another fragile flotilla of little candles in paper boats sailing off into the waiting darkness together and yet alone. But to what end? Eventually. Inevitably withdrawn from society and humanity demoted to a passing intermediate phase of inconvenient and annoying presence to those young and vial? A dry no longer nutritious granule in an aging box of cream of wheat. A box of crumbling crayons no longer usable. That long nightly climb to the solitude of the bed chamber. The great novels locked in one’s head otherwise empty and sunk into the harbor of regret. Lamenting all the impossibilities that one could never have possibly shared in? The life of the reasonable and possible having never been fully formed. But gone to rot. A meal for the ship’s worms. Age laughably still not destructive of that perpetual habit of everlasting hope for the future. If not here, then in some other realm never yet suggested or imagined.
Like many things that are touched by human hands the most noble of sentiments somehow eventually end up mishandled. End up much farther afield than what was initially intended. Perhaps no concept is portrayed in more of a fallacious manner than the popular movie version of that strange anomaly of nature known as the hero. To see the entity that had grown up in the long evolution of celluloid one would summon to mind images of one ever confident in the immediacy of action magically stepping forth without any hesitation into the worst of circumstances dealing in kind blow for blow with any adversary overfly large or diabolically clever. Someone who seems to have an inexhaustible level of willpower to go easily far beyond their own limited capacities in mortal strength and withstand a level of punishment that would wither those twice their size. All these qualities plus more expected in the midst of public discourse and in relating the qualities of this rare breed on individual that we all seem humbled by in mere proximity of our own measure seemingly so lacking in comparison.
Yet, no fanfare of massed trumpets and celebratory showers of rose petals can hope to offer fit homage to so many that would choose to step away from the spotlight and remain silent of those things that needed to be done and resolved themselves to commit to because there was no one else there to fulfill them. The last man standing who could have retreated but chose instead to seek out a fellow incapacitated or perhaps beyond saving. Someone who was challenged by what seemed an insurmountable fear and held fast despite to face it squarely not yielding to the impulse to run. Someone who has suffered the torments of Hell but is resolved to continue on without any hope of a better outcome because it was up to them or no one. Those who could find satisfaction in humble fare and be thankful for it despite its lack. Anonymous individuals not prone to marching rank and file shoulder to shoulder on a specific holiday. Not out of any sense of shame but in knowing that with any society the time for peace must ever outweigh those times regretfully spent in giving battle. Those are the natural inclinations of true heroes. Not the cardboard movie poster cutouts beneath marquees or the cold slippery plastic of effigies molded into the shape of fictional characters that have never existed save within the minds of infants. But in those true veterans that have raised us, loved us, and sacrificed mightily to protect us. God bless them all!
Men want an object of focus
an island to find refuge
women want a bulwark to encapsulate them
but not to hold them back
Is life so goddamn simple?
Those long forgotten sights and smells
transcendent in time bringing one back for a moment
places once viewed for only an errant moment
caught inside within that eternally passing instant
Can there not be hope if such things exist?
Those old thoughts shared once thought mundane
Now rich roses to the slowly blinding eye
That old tune that one once swayed to
now oblivious so obvious but still so free
Still something to remind one that you once were alive.
To some there is one day when bygone spirits return to their own haunts. For many others the spectral remains ever present. The real world as I once knew it stopped long ago. Now I sit within the quiet and darkness as my only true refuge. So many times I have looked about this same room at the very same visages peering forth from picture frames. The artifacts that defined them in close proximity. A storehouse of mixed memories that slowly grows stale. When this house was full it was small and I confined myself to a tiny bedroom alone. Spending time by myself. withholding myself from those other two that more rightfully belonged here. So much wasted time between now and then that I heartily regret. Could I now begin to bear the fact of their longing they had for my company? How much can a guilty heart take? So much back and forth of the what and the why and the reasons as empty as they finally became. An unwanted rivalry I suppose for the hand of one over the hands of the other. Cold hands they would be. Not without feeling but with anticipation for the warmth that I could bring to them. That I seemed to always try to withhold. How I miss them now. Two big mitts placed upon my face with a laugh. The key in the door. Recollections traveling in reverse. Another pair of smaller hands that had care for me all my life. Their combination being so often all that I had to shelter my world. How much I turned away from that would have made all the difference for all of our worlds together as one. Yet when I think back further farther back in my life it seems defined by constant loss? So many different disappointments. Unable to be happy with that which had been set out for me in the here and the now. Spoiled! Too used to getting my way on all those little material things that seemed to ever matter. But meant nothing! Now all these things are simply stacked up blocking the entry to a road back to in gracious incident of meaningless attainment. A substitute for anything that really mattered. I am a keeper in a museum of items I dare not touch.
Penitent sack cloth of my own device. Clothes over worn to shreds as if I thought they might never age. We all have our times of glory and then decline. How foolish and unkind to deny my own? To confound the best ally I could have ever had. The ruthlessness of youth! The arrogance! An ingrate to a simple man that could not understand why his accomplishments counted for naught within my narrowed eyes. Someone who tried everything to ensnare me with the beauty his vision for the sake of giving me the gift of his insights. If I wish to recall his voice I need now only hear my own. His lessons have come back to haunt. While my own vain glories have long since crashed and burned. I see the reflection of my face with his own that is inscribed deep within it. I can no longer imagine better ventures. I look at my own physical form and note that it has begun a slow decline to fatal atrophy. Yet, I can no longer feel fear about what is in store. I have seen the worse. Felt it. This earthly world is locked away from me now. And I am nothing to it. An Autumn leaf that has gone brown and crispy curled. I have nothing anymore to give to it . Just this same old chorus September song. My ghosts as audience.
There is a silent dialogue of lives and incidents both minor and otherwise that makes up the sum total of every life. Artifacts that are kept having special meaning. Random items that often times outlast their owners. The combination of same speaking to those who listen what they were all about. Impossible to decipher in the silence of emptiness that their absence leaves. Muted speech that could tell so much about things for too long neglected to ask. The solution to all the family mysteries of love and life and so many disappointments endured and surpassed. These flickering moments on screen do not do the long lost reality justice. But they do capture a glimpse. And perhaps we should be grateful for that? You can read from that old unexpected volume of schoolgirl fiction and wonder how it inspired? That old lacquer box with the Chinese characters that seem so exotic. But merely state that it is merely an old lacquered box. What wonders and memories were sequestered within that past along with its owner? Such joys and bliss that could fill an ocean. How amazing to look at that small space and wonder how it had held so much for so long? A time capsule of lost youth. The moment by moment journal of daily life. A compendium of those subsequent experiences one has congealed into age. Like dried up perfume casting a subtle hint of what was once contained within. The instant of recognition of something that one would have ever expected from within that person that one always though they had known. A freshness lurking within something too long passed up as just having always been. Like the sudden passing scent in the air of roses. But then, one finds, that they had never sought to know. Gone. But yet so wonderfully eternal. The essence of those one had the pleasure to have known.
The bottle’s neck smelled like sarsaparilla.A most annoying smell that transposed itself to taste when one lifted the bottle’s open end to the mouth to swallow it’s contents. As the neutral sensation of carbonated mineral water was tainted by that fragrance it despoiled the experience of the drink. At two dollars a bottle, its presence as a staple to his daily diet had become an expensive commodity. Certainly not detrimental to his general health. In fact quite the opposite. But fatal to his lack of income which at present was next to insufficient. How unthinking of the anonymous party who stocked the local store to bathe their skin in some eccentric offbeat fragrance that for them was some sort of signature of individual personality. An unwanted commercially available pheromone that may have provided them with a greater level of social accessibility but to his sense of smell and taste only signified annoyance. The efficiency of his senses had come down to the bare minimum over too many years of constant assault by city living with its proclivity of volatile industrial ether. Acetone’s, keytone’s and kerosene’s. Ethyl methyl’s, pollen’s and dusts. The smell of tainted canals wafting up daily from ten miles to the south. It all intermixed into a noxious stew the presence of which was ever on display on the horizon each night at sunset. The personal signature of the massive enclave within which the bulk of his mortal existence had transpired. A scratchy dryness suddenly appeared as he cleared his throat of the sensation of thickened mucous with low grating vocal scrape.
His custom at the small supermarket chain was regular but small in revenue. The fact that the state was picking up the tab not adding weight to any potential commentary he might offer as to a positive suggestion by him of how to avoid such unfortunate inadvertent situations that would steal away customer satisfaction with the goods offered by the establishment. After all if he had wanted some flavored water there wee certainly more sophisticated and tastier alternatives available. He could imagine the scenario in this current era of faceless commercial consumerism. A prompt refund might be initially offered with a customary apology at his complaint when the touchstone of a recent sales receipt was produced, Maybe the thin unsubstantial promise of promptly seeing to it that an internal inquiry would be conducted within the next day so as to bring the offending shelf ‘stocker’ into line with store policies on personal hygiene. Part of him was rankled by the thought of this. One one hand there would be a certain Patrician satisfaction if on the next purchase the product’s containers had resumed their former neutral lack of taste or aroma. Yet this would cast him in a group that he himself personally despised. Those pinch nosed egomaniacs that thought nothing of disturbing the usual fast-paced rhythms of efficiently stocking shelves by hard working low paid staff who would now be eyed with an even greater level of suspicion in an economy that already had too many working far below their potential earning less dollars than they were supposedly deserved of. This might lead to unintended consequences? By some odd stretch of his imagination he could conceive of a scenario where through the consternation of an underling his rare and hard to find preference of brand would be struck from the store’s inventory? Then where would he be able to seek out the key active element in his own personal daily ritual of mental solace?
It made him even more cross to think how powerless he was to provide one measure of constancy to a diminished level of bare bones existence that by all intents and purposes should not have to suffer such constant and daily privation. When would this persistent economic drought lift and a reasonable level of local prosperity return? It was so unfair! The neighborhood was not by any stretch of the imagination destitute. The ghetto of urban blacks and Hispanics at the municipal border stood some two miles East. A curtain of struggling tax challenged White Middle class homes standing as sentinels to the ebb and flow shift of ethnic distribution. It was true that the endless stream of peoples from outside the nation had not been stemmed but quite the opposite, had been increasing. The first and second generations of same now economically acclimated and relatively prosperous and stable. The spectrum of goods and services locally available bearing ever more foreign sounding names with strange characters painted in garish jarring color palates that seemed to contradict those that once was long used to. He could recall so many memories of years past where one could rely on local standbys that had made their reputations solid through providing old world service and goods that were significant of those golden years of easily obtainable living. Now their empty store fronts were slowly being bulldozed having sat too long in the eclipse of what was formerly the good old days. It made his blood boil to see that other neighborhood across the boulevard just South stand so unaffected by all this! Large houses with many more bedrooms than needed by the average family/ Well-manicured highly decorated parcels of acreage that required ant-like crews of immigrant labor to maintain that immaculate fairy tale untouched appearance. As if everyone who lived there was somehow an Olympian far above the cares and woes of the normal folk that did without so that they did not have to. That was the myth and backbone of the credo of Capitalism! Something that despite all the social cultural dislocation that most felt one was required to give reverent lip service to.
He took another sip from the bottle and wrinkled his nose. Things were not like this before his mind responded to the renewed annoyance of that strange offbeat scent. It reminded him of those odd smells that would be occasionally wafting past into the open driver’s side window of his sedan when he found himself driving through that over-packed noisy decaying urban sprawl that was thick with perpetually dissatisfied ghetto-dwellers who seemed always surly and ready to impose the threat of violent confrontation. The associations one had when traversing those areas was to keep the windows rolled up tight and maintain a swift and as uninterrupted progress down the center lanes of a major boulevard making sure that one would not be unsuspectedly blocked by hostile parties who might have violent intentions on their mind. He absolutely hated those places and could imagine setting foot on the Moon without a space suit easier than strolling down the sidewalk of any of those avenues either day or night. Their incrementally expanding presence ever seeping towards his own tiny kingdom being so very significant of how bad things were getting in the world at large. He hated that smell. It upset everything! It made him want to sell or even just throw out everything, sell his property and go somewhere. Anywhere! Just as long as he didn’t have to deal with those ever-demanding hostile forces. It wasn’t fair! He and his parents had worked for years starting up a small family company that when times were good allowed them to live well. The shift in technologies and the fall of fashion restlessly progressing away from the style and substance that the business offered causing it eventually to close before the passing of his kin. He had to supposed that given his own advance in age that he was to be considered almost a dinosaur? Someone from a bygone era that wouldn’t have the skill base or proper mentality to continue in society in a manner that was productive enough to hire. His generation like that of his own parents being the most reliable and easy target of eventual scorn. It wasn’t true he heard an inner voice protest. Alas a deeper more steadied voice seemed to respond, “Indeed it was!”